Malegaon blast accused Lt Col Purohit gets bail after 8 years

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The Supreme Court on Monday, 21st August, granted bail to Lieutenant Colonel Shrikant Prasad Purohit in the 2008 Malegaon blast case.

Seven people were killed in the bomb blast on September 29, 2008, at Malegaon, a communally-sensitive textile town in Nasik district of north Maharashtra.

Lt Col Purohit’s bail comes months after the acquittal of Swami Aseemanand and six others in the 2007 bombing of the Ajmer Sharif mausoleum in Rajasthan. In that case, more than three dozen witnesses out of 149 turned hostile or, in other words, refused to confirm to the court what they had earlier told the police and National Investigation Agency (NIA) officers.

Purohit (45), who has been in jail for almost nine years, denies involvement in the conspiracy. The NIA is probing the case which also names Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur as one of the accused.

Purohit had moved the apex court challenging a Bombay high court order dismissing his bail plea.He has spent nine years behind bars after being arrested in 2008. He told the SC that he was acting as army mole and was not involved in terrorist activity.A bench of Justices R K Agrawal and A M Sapre passed the order on the plea.

The top court had on May 5 sought a response from the NIA and the Maharashtra government on the plea of Purohit seeking bail.

Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, appearing for the National Investigation Agency (NIA), said there was evidence against Purohit that would help in framing a charge.

A special MCOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act) court had earlier ruled that the Maharastra anti-terrorist squad (ATS) had wrongly applied this law against Thakur, Purohit and nine others.

 The 4,000-page charge sheet had alleged that Malegaon was selected as the blast target because of a sizeable Muslim population.It had named Thakur, Purohit and co-accused, Swami Dayanand Pandey as the key conspirators.It had alleged that it was Pandey who had instructed Purohit to arrange explosive RDX, while Thakur owned the motorcycle which was used in the blast.

In all, the NIA is investigating seven cases in which Hindu groups are suspects. These cases involving attacks where Muslims were targeted,were handed to the federal agency by the previous UPA government. This is also when the NIA made most of the arrests, including that of Lt Col Purohit and Swami Aseemanand.

Ajay Rahirkar, another accused, allegedly organised funds for the terror act, while conspiracy meetings were held at the Bhonsala Military School in Nasik, it had said.Rakesh Dhawde, Ramesh Upadhyay, Shyamlal Sahu, Shivnarain Kalsangra, Sudhakar Chaturvedi, Jagdish Mhatre and Sameer Kulkarni were the other accused.

But over the past three years, the pace of investigation has slackened and witnesses have turned hostile.

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